Agriculture....

"Agriculture is the Backbone of our Nation"

Sunday, 31 January 2016

A THOUSAND MORE WORDS

“It is well known that if a people has a firm determination to work, it can overcome any and all its difficulties and problems. We have no problem which is insurmountable. Let us work in unity and diligence. What makes a people great and testifies to its greatness is its aspirations for the well-being of its country, and the practical achievement of these same aspirations for its own benefit and for that of future generations. Unity gives strength and assures success.”  H.I.M EMPEROR HAILE SELASSIE I. 

Heart of Love for all you Dear Readers. So much to be thankful for.

Art display at the Shiriki farm
It is our sincere hope that it is well with you as it is with the H.I.M Negus Shiriki Community Based Organization here at Maragua, Central Kenya. On a rainy January! That is the equivalent of a blue moon as far as this area is concerned. But then they said it is El Nino. Climate change? Who knows? What we know is that we will relentlessly continue doing our part to restore biodiversity and disseminating knowledge, on a daily basis.

Arrow root crop
May we take this opportunity to share some images of what we have been up to since we last linked on this forum.

Edgar, volunteer from Tanzania
From our last visit to Dar-e-Salaam, Tanzania, we continue reaping fruits. None more tangible than the presence in our midst of a young volunteer from Tanzania. During our visit to Dar, we would meet youth in various places, and naturally would reason with them about our activities in Maragua, which are geared towards uplifting our communities through tapping into the energies of our youth. We met Edgar in the busy streets of Dar, where he was eking out a living hawking trinkets.  He promptly declared his interest in one day joining our team in Kenya, to learn and educate. Fast forward four months later, and a knock on the door. Yes, the man is now a full time volunteer, borders no barriers.


Volunteers Jeremiah and Eric
Yet more and more youth are realizing within themselves the need to step up to their natural responsibilities, and finding their place. We are in joy as we welcome two more youthful volunteers, Eric and Jeremiah.  We actually met Eric three years ago, just joined college, and with big heart to serve humanity. Never spoke again. Three weeks ago, skilled from his college course, he called and said he was on his way, accompanied by a kindred spirit.

Princess Menen - Education is key
 True manifestation of the strengths of youth, so often spoken about, is being witnessed through the vibes shared at Maragua and the works thereof. A position no doubt shared by countless ones universally, the ONE LOVE. Still, we have been granted to continue nurturing more youth, from even a tender age. Just to be double sure, we are now originating the youth right here at the Maragua farm!

Sister Njoki 'Mama Afrika'
From the situation you see in the picture of Sister Njoki ‘Mama Afrika’, we are happy to report the healthy arrival of the twins Jahwise and Jahsent, the newest generation at the farm. Long life.

Volunteer Githaka, sharing.
Through grace and healthy partnerships, the community education and interaction efforts continue growing. This is evident from the increasing number of visitors to the farm, to the progress with the community outreach programs. Among our active partner organization is Slow Food International, with whom we have been joining hands in our endeavors to spread the culture of healthy and sustainable living. With us they have shared seeds, tools, education and opportunities to reach out to more people. It is an added advantage for all that they are also part of a wider network of organizations and communities who are consciously laboring to restore food sovereignty, biodiversity and community integration. Biovision FCP, our long time partner is one of them.

Shiriki volunteers preparing culinary delights.
This last November, Slow Food invited us to take part in their Africa Peace Kitchen day, at a location which is some distance from the Maragua farm.  The theme for the day was ‘Promoting peaceful co-existence through exchange of culinary traditions’.

Old school cuisine
Also in attendance were various other partner community groups and some of the local residents. It was a huge cook-out, and did we all exchange culinary traditions! Some of the traditional dishes have not been seen by our generation.

Heart-felt sentiments from Faya Nganga, franked by Ras Mwangi and Githaka.
Is it a wonder that our ancestors were strong specimens to whom age was not a threat? In addition, there was lots of helpful networking, information exchange and dancing. Naturally.

Song and dance
On other occasions, we have had the honor of hosting guests from the international community at the farm, as part of our ongoing partnerships with Slow Food and Biovision FCP.

Ras Abasa addressing...
The guests representing communities and organizations, who are involved in the same endeavors, came from nations as diverse as Uganda, Thailand, Mexico, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Iran, U.S.A, Canada, Colombia, India and more.

...an attentive audience.
These organizations and groups who have visited include PELUM, ILEIA, MULIRU FARMER’S GROUP, SUNFLOWER FARM, AFRICAN BIODIVERSITY NETWORK, SOTH INDIAN FEDERATION OF FISHERMEN SOCIETY, EARTH NET FOUNDATION, DHAN FOUNDATION INDIA, WESA, FALL WINTER MOVIES  and  SOUTH ALLIANCE FOR INDIGENEOUS RESOURCES.

Farm visitors
The love, information, contacts and encouragement shared is invaluable and uplifting in unmentionable ways.

A vote of thanks, Ethiopian style.
 It is a strength to know that even in the face of all the depressing news and propaganda fronted by the mainstream vessels, there are individuals all across the seven seas who are working quietly (and sometimes not) to defend the natural way.

Healthy interactions on the ground.
The Shiriki C.B.O volunteers have also been deriving much encouragement from you Dear Reader, from how you have kept in touch through this blog. It sends the realization that there are many like-minded, who are applauding our efforts, just as much as we are appreciating your interaction with us.

This one is for you...
Thank you Austria for  the support  you sent, special mention to India, U.S.A, Germany, China, France, Russia , Ukraine, Kenya, Qatar, Mexico, Uganda and elsewhere for your presence on this link. Stay strong!

AMANI!



Tuesday, 18 August 2015

REPORT FROM DAR 

“Economic and social growth is a laborious and slow process. Development is the accumulated result of intensive long term efforts. It is not enough that a nation desire development and economic maturity, any more than a child, in wishing, becomes a man. Time is required, and experience, as well as trial and error. The requirements and processes of nature cannot be ignored or evaded. The child must crawl, then walk, before it can run.  So, also, must a nation progress through successive stages of growth before the stage is reached where rapid and ever accelerating development is possible.” H.I.M Emperor Haile Selasie I.

May this find you all in a good place.

Shiriki organization volunteers preparing for trade fair at our workshop
This last July, H.I.M Negus Shiriki Community Based Organization sent two representatives to neighbouring Tanzania, for the Dar-e-salaam International Trade Fair. What an event!
At Dar-e-Salaam International Trade Fair, Tanzania.

In our last post we mentioned how we had been working with the Export Promotion Council (EPC) to improve upon the quality of our products, especially the sandals.  They also have been helping identify export market opportunities as well as providing advisory services regarding all matters related to international transactions. The Shiriki volunteers are thankfully more the wealthier for these experiences. It is through this link that we were able to feature at the Kenyan Pavilion, as one of the specially selected ten groups from different counties, to present our products to the international market. Sales from our items contribute to sustainability and the running of our community projects.
Faya Nganga tending to clients
The Organization was represented by Faya Ng’ang’a, a seasoned trader who has travelled to many fairs and exhibitions to raise awareness on our products. The products we speak of include clothing items, such as head wear, handmade scarves, sweaters, shawls, shirts, t-shirts, dresses, and sandals. The sandals are handmade, with woven straps, recycled fabric and recycled car tyre soles. We also make African jewelrely and ornaments, necklaces, bracelets, and accessories. The second representative was Githaka Karuri, yours truly. At the trade fair, we mainly featured the sandals.
Githaka welcoming Kenya government officials
The products were undoubtedly well received, and the creativity universally lauded. It is a resounding testimony to the hard work and committment that the Shiriki volunteers have put in to learn, share and carry on these skills. The hand-weaving for instance is an ancient tradition handed over through countless generations. It is our duty to perpetuate.

Serving the people
It was also an opportunity to learn more about the requirements of our clients, so that we may serve them even better. In addition to that, we had the opportunity to meet up with people with whom we have subsequently continued nurturing new relationships, based on trade, community work and mutual appreciation. It is in fact quite evident that it is through such interactions that the people of this continent and the world at large will continue forging healthy human interactions, and spreading goodwill. This is of course as long as we are not solely driven on by the monetary unit.
New acquintances
A BIG shout to all the people of Tanzania who were so gracious, welcoming and helpful through our stay. For unadulterated hospitality and friendly atmosphere, Tanzania is the place you want to go to. Especially to laid back coastal Dar-e-salaam. Melodic Swahili all around you, lots of witty banter. Genuine smiles and what about the local cuisine! We rate you,Tz.
Joyful interactions
It is our sincere intention that such excursions continue opening up doors so that the many talented people within our communities who have skills, or are willing to learn, can find outlets for their products. Handiwork and cottage industry is no doubt an area which still requires much support, hindsight, insight and foresight. Especially we need to ensure that ones can make a living, utilizing the raw materials available around them, to make items of international appeal and utility. H.I.M Negus Shiriki C.B.O volunteers will maintain at the vanguard. By grace.

AMANI, UPENDO NA HAKI! PEACE, LOVE AND JUSTICE!


Thursday, 11 June 2015

FORWARD ON...

"To make our wills obedient to good and to avoid all evil, is to show the greatest wisdom. In order to follow this aim, one must be guided by religion. Progress without religion is just like a life surrounded by unknown perils and can be compared to a body without a soul.

Knowing that material and spiritual progress are essential to man, we must work ceaselessly for the equal attainment of both. Only then shall we be able to acquire that absolute inner calm so neccessary to our well-being." H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Greetings of Love.

May this find you all in blessed heights.

Last time we interacted here, the volunteers at the H.I.M Negus Shiriki C.B.O community demonstration farm were preparing for the long rains, the clouds already hanging low and the heavens exploding in dramatic  displays of lightning and thunder. We have not been disappointed at all. The rains have pounded the earth relentlessly through April and May. As indicated in an earlier post, at the farm we have been proactively working throughout, and not waiting for the traditional planting seasons. The rains therefore found a number of crops already growing, boosting them to good effect. We naturally went on a planting spree to cover every single space which called for it. Working in this manner, ensures that throughout the year you are harvesting as well as putting more seed in the ground. Thankfully, the farm is currently a virtual forest of food!

At the H.I.M Shiriki C.B.O farm
When it rains and you have planted as appropriate, you get a respite from the land, to allow nature run her course with the germination process. What do you do then?

Well at Shiriki, the volunteers go full out to express their art potential. The creative juices are flowing freely, and you give yourself to it, enter the zone. This time we all set to explore new ground with the art products, from the sandals, personal ornaments and accessories, mosaics and others. As LIFE would have it, we got the opportunity to link up with the Export Promotion Council, an arm of the government trade ministry.

Rebecca and Joan, representing EPC, with Faya Nganga
 The Council aims to promote enterprising projects on the ground to step up a level and therefore reach their desired markets local and international. This takes in such aspects as product improvement, any required registrations, setting up exhibitions and helping link with both experts and buyers.
Ras Abasa, Faya Nganga and Sister Njoki are all ears as Joan takes them through the paces
H.I.M Negus Shiriki C.B.O was entered in the program with other enterprises throughout the country, and through a rigorous step by step assessment and elimination process, we are honoured to report that we are among the few left standing. We are currently preparing for two exhibitions, the regional one to be held in the capital, Nairobi, and the next international one in a different country. We will keep you posted on the developments.
Improved products
During this same period, some of the volunteers took time away for a working visit to the Kericho tea town, deep in the Rift Valley, right across the country. Sprawling tea farms as far as one can see, producing raw material for the brew which Kenya is worldwide famed for. Plantations upon plantations, and not a single food plant in sight.
Kericho welcoming committee
Anyway, our visit had little to do with tea. We went to install a mosaic we had been working on. For a whole year. The granite mosaic, created in the ancient method, is an epic forty square meters, and depicts the creation story as narrated in the Bible. The client for this is a newly elected Cathedral, the Sacred Heart, which is smack in Kericho town. The cathedral itself is a marvel of architecture and art , magnificent to behold. A truly humbling experience to be a part of this.

Man at work
The mosaic has been well received by the church going and the general public and it is our prayer that it will go on gladdening the hearts of many through generations, as well as inspiring those with artistic talent. A lot of appreciation goes to all those who participated along the way.

Art well appreciated
As you are reading this, we would like to reiterate one factor. That we maintain an open door policy to those who would wish to learn from any of the artistic or other endeavours we are engaged in. So if you are a young person from any walk of life looking to articulate your energies, reach out. There is a place for you. Of course we do not mean just young in age. Alternatively should you be an individual, group or organization with ideas or expertise to selflessly share with our community, come in.
Installing mosaic
We take this opportunity to thank all of you who have kept up with us through the reading of this blog. Good vibes coming from Ukraine and Russia, China, India, the US, Germany, Kenya, Greece, Belarus and all over. Keep it burning!

AMANI NA UPENDO. (PEACE AND LOVE).


Sunday, 12 April 2015

LIVING PARTNERSHIPS

"Let there be no mistake; in modern Ethiopia, each man must contribute. There is no protection from the demand that each man's worth be assessed by his achievements. Education and learning offer no escape from the obligation of toil. Social place and high birth provide no guarantee of soft hands and a life of ease and comfort. High origins are no passport to high positions. To those who contribute willingly, to the best of their abilities, who in sweat and toil work for the good of the nation, with little thought of self, to them much will be given, even to the governing of the land. Nor should anyone mistakenly believe that only in the cities can he serve his country. The greater need today is among the people, among those who work the soil, who provide the nourishment and sustenance on which Ethiopia feeds. The University National Service Program has pointed the way. Today's younger generation must maintain ties with the people who are the bulk and backbone of the nation. The problem of the many must become the problem of the few, for only in this way the progress we earn can be long lasting and real and of benefit to all" H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I.


True to the name Shiriki, the tasks that the volunteers at H.I.M Negus Shiriki C.B.O have taken on have cooperation as the foundation. For no bird can fly on one wing. We aim to be one with the WHOLE as we go about our day to day. One with our fellow humans, our whole environment and what is in it, one with the HIGHER intelligence that orders life.

Higher love
On a tangible level, we realize that finding and taking our place in the natural cycle involves pooling our energies together, for unto each are special gifts endowed, and thus together we complete the picture. In this vein, we seek to partner with all the various individuals and institutions who are discerning of the issues which are calling to be addressed. Winnie and David below are individuals who have joined arms with us to re-educate the community. Between them, they have tons of knowledge on indigeneous trees and natural farming.
Winnie and David
The work of the Shiriki organization’s volunteers focuses on helping to integrate  the strengths of our community, to ensure a suitable social, environmental and economical standard. The volunteers, being mostly youth themselves, are in cognition of the fact that youth consist of the bulk of the population. Within this group is the physical energy, literacy, and an unbridled enthusiasm for life, begging to be well directed. In the frame too are the elders, the reservoirs of ancient knowledge. Then the infants. From there we have the institutions which man, in wisdom, has put together to organize these strengths; groups, community development organizations, the government. Our living environment  in itself provides both the tools and materials, to go on creating.

Shiriki volunteers hard at work
The core partners are therefore the Shiriki volunteers who have come together, organized and centralized at Maragua, Kenya, to ensure that this spirit of cooperation in development is maintained for the benefit of all. I bow in respect, for the perseverance, hard work and selflessness that this group of youth continues to exhibit. The fruits of this are discernible at the farm where we engage ourselves in natural agriculture, community education and the arts. The efforts continue to be well appreciated within the immediate community and the wider community, who we are able to reach through the various means at our disposal.

Ras Muiruiri educating the youth
Beyond the actual members of the organization are the youth from the local and international scene who are progressively getting uplifted and involved in what we are doing. Through physical contact at our community demonstration farm, media, themed events, social networks, word of mouth and learning institutions, awareness is spreading.  The youth are reaping benefit from the availed opportunities to learn, earn, grow and share.
Chege, a community youth helping out at the Shiriki farm.
Our next partners are our fellow community members within the locality, as well as all those all over the world who are carrying on these same tasks, those with whom we have interacted and those we are yet to.  Through our three years in Maragua the avenues of cooperation with the community here have continued to expand. It is no doubt owing to the attitude of the volunteers; the progressive activities and sound human relations. It is as well owing to the openness of the people, who have embraced us and allowed us space for expression. Now through community forums, community outreach, social places such as markets, practical demonstration and farm visits and product exchange we are able to share seeds, knowledge, resources ,warmth and vision. We aim to play a part in benefitting the community through education, income generation, availability of better services and enhanced social interactions. To spread goodwill.

Farmers from the community come visiting
The efforts of the H.I.M Negus Shiriki volunteers have attracted the attention of development partners who work with our communities. Naturally it is easier for such institutions to work with groups who are already organized, as these are already focal points within the communities from whence knowledge, awareness and resources can be disseminated. We have been actively seeking such partnerships, for we recognize that there is mutual benefit, whereupon our capacity to apply ourselves to the task can be enhanced. At the same time these institutions get more access to the people on the ground and through these networks the opportunities for quality living in general are amplified. A special mention for the Biovision Farmers Communication Program for a truly living partnership.
The media crew from Biovision FCP
The government is our active partner, through its various organs. It is manifest that community development is assured when the people and the government work as a partnership. The people know their needs and aspirations best. The government is tasked with pooling resources and directing them towards addressing these pertinent needs. In this spirit, the ministries of youth, industry, agriculture and local government have and continue to work with us to serve the people. Through this partnership, the volunteers gain capacity building, networking and links, and forums to showcase and educate.
The County Water Engineer, a government representative.
How invaluable these partnerships are proving to be!

Dear Reader, it is only natural that we are meant to live heart to heart, and work hand in hand. The doors of H.I.M Negus Shiriki C.B.O are wide open. Follow your instinct…


PEACE.











Saturday, 7 February 2015

A THOUSAND WORDS

“The outlook and attitudes of Our people have undergone drastic changes during this year. The nation has come to modernity and maturity. The people have been educated, not so much by formal, classroom instruction, but as a consequence of an increasingly broad and general exposure of life in the twentieth century and the world around them, Ethiopia has awakened. Ethiopians now demand more for themselves than their fathers possessed. They have acquired the desire to improve their lot and that of their children. They are willing and anxious to change.

This is what we have labored throughout Our life to accomplish: to bring our people to the point of awareness of the demands of modern life, to arouse in them the ambition to progress, to stimulate their latent desire for advancement and improvement.

This has now been achieved, and with the natural resources with which Almighty God has endowed our nation, the path to development has been cleared and it’s vistas lie before us.” H.I.M Emperor Haile Selassie I

Much thanks for LIFE, precious.
Ras Abasa can not resist a nibble at a naturally grown 'miracle tree', Moringa Oleifera.
A picture can say more than a thousand words. Today, we take this opportunity to share with you a number of images depicting the livity amongst the H.I.M Negus Shiriki Organization volunteers, as we continue to engage our community in works of development.
Community Education
We are now experiencing the hottest period once again. A relentless sun shines her rays upon the earth, and rightfully so. This is the season for that. The sun ripens the fruits and dries the seeds produced during the previous short rains, that they may be ready to germinate with the imminent long rains, thus perpetuating the cycle.
Passion fruit!
For the farmers who have worked so hard on the land, there have been mixed results. We hear reports of places where the harvest has been abundant. At the Shiriki C.B.O farm, we are definitely not complaining. Thanks giving galore. With the farm giving forth generously, the need to obtain facilities for value addition becomes more glaring. This is for the purpose of food preservation, maintaining nutrition value, for hygiene and ease of distribution. A solar drier, grain mill, oven, and cane juicer are some of the items which will help elevate this  project to that next level. 

Fullness of the earth
 At the same time there is also less pleasant news of places where the rains were inadequate, and the crops failed. We empathize with the very sincere farmers. We also condemn the brainwash that has a majority of them still locked on mono-cropping, with maize being the most targeted seasonal crop. Failure of maize means widespread starvation. Yet there are varieties of crops suited to different regions, which would guarantee a better harvest. Cassava, sorghum, millet and such do better for drier areas. Bananas, arrowroots and peas do better for wetter areas.
Arrow root farm
It is with much gratitude that I convey a lively account of the runnings at the Shiriki Organization farm, as well with our community development endeavors. The volunteers at the farm are in wonderful spirits, and the progress continues to register, both in terms of our learning and implementing.
Sarah from Biovision and Susan of Youth Development demonstrating how to make biodegradable tree seedling bags
The sunny season has aided the fruition of our grams, sorghum, mangoes, arrowroots, cassava, ‘bush’ tomatoes and the ORIGINAL seed maize which we have been carefully nurturing. We implore you Dear Reader to adopt, as your responsibility, the preservation and nurture of all natural and premium seed which the wolf pack will not have pounced upon(no disrespect to real wolves). Posterity will be thankful for it.


Unadulterated maize variety

A lot of the community members and visitors from further afield are pleasantly uplifted to find out that we are growing the tomatoes and maize varieties which were grown in the ancient times. There is now a high demand for the seeds of many of the plants we have, including the herbs. Meanwhile, the research station continues to feverishly put out ‘improved’ varieties and feed them down the farmers’ throats through the government machinery. Disappear!


An abundance of sorghum
We continue to irrigate the crops which are currently growing on the land. There is quite a variety, consisting of tubers, grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices and trees. Currently our system of irrigation is mostly manual, fetching water from the canals with buckets. However, we do expect to obtain a mechanical means for irrigation before season’s end, to ease some of the labour and time taken. We are also consulting with the County Water Engineer on the optimum irrigation method for our specific portion, so that the visiting farmers may learn too.
Manual irrigation
Talking of visitors, we keep on being blessed with quality interactions on an everyday basis. From the immediate community members, the children and youth, government officials, organizations, interest groups to the international family. 
Receiving visitors
With them we are getting to share the warmth of sincere human relations. They are also deep fountains of knowledge from which we have been granted to quench! 
 Ndungu of Kenya Organic Agriculture Network and Lilian of Organic Foods come avisiting.
 Same way, the sharing has provided us with opportunities to testify of our experience and educate the community. This in itself is being much appreciated, and we are now getting many visitors who have been referred by others who came earlier. We are seeing the endeavor to utilize this farm as an institution for exchange of progressive attitudes unfolding. Let it be…
Extolling the benefits
The community education has however not been restricted to the one location. We have been organizing and attending community forums, markets, utilizing the media and generally keeping the fire burning on all fronts.
More Fire!
Recently, at the behest of the County government, we attended a big community get together,where we represented the voice and the works of the youth. There was major public acknowledgement of our labors, much encouragement.

Receiving a community award for positive example 
Veterans of the Mau Mau war for independence were particulary delighted to see that the same militancy is being carried on by a younger generation, applying our energies to where it is most critical.
Mau Mau freedom fighters
A lot of thanks to you Dear Reader for staying with us through this blog, facebook, e-mail, face to face and even mystical communication. Let us, together, keep the vibe alive.

May JUSTICE prevail.

PEACE.


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